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A Record of Ash & Ruin: The Grieving Lands (An Original LitRPG Portal Fantasy)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Mesa, Sep 7, 2022.

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  1. Index: Chapter 1 - Strands of Fate
    Mesa

    Mesa Getting sticky.

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    [​IMG]

    Not everyone can be chosen, and not all can become heroes.

    Our protagonist is ripped from his comfortable life on Earth into a world of fantasy and magic reminiscent of the roleplaying games he once enjoyed. Chosen by the Goddess of Justice Avaria, he draws the attention of an even more ancient and puissant power who seizes him for his own dark designs.

    Alone and disorientated, he must quickly learn to survive in a cruel world where the rules and structures of his old life have shifted entirely. He will confront strange alien creatures, brave a terrifying hostile environment, and assimilate his own skills and abilities as he tries to get a grip on his newfound reality.

    I am writing this story with my vision of a LitRPG where, dare I say it, everything is a little more realistic. Our protagonist starts at the lowest possible rung. Levels are gained slowly and with much sacrifice. He has no access to conveniences such as instant language learning, internal maps, or clear explanations for skills and abilities.

    I want to explore human nature when pushed to the extremes in a place where justice is determined by one’s martial skill and strength in magic. What does such an environment reveal about the nature of heroes and villains? What is the value of human life when the central character is unclear whether the world he is in is truly real?



    I hope you enjoy your time in the Grieving Lands! Support me on my Patreon for early access to new chapters!

    [​IMG]



    Chapter 1 - Strands of Fate


    The war had started at the behest of the elves when they were still one people. The First Children spoke of the great devourer, the herald of the end that would consume all things and leave this world a shriveled, cold husk of rock. They predicted that Mana, the god-gift which flowed through all things, the giver of life and the hope of the future, would be ended by this grave new threat.

    - On the Cataclysm by an unknown Quassian Scholar circa 103 AC


    The place between dreams and control is one where the imagination is free to run riot. In my dream state, I had flown over vast endless plains of grass filled with giant majestic animals, walled cities filled with stout armored knights, and a great blazing desert populated by worms that could swallow small suburbs whole. A cold breeze played across from the open window, bringing with it the sounds of an awakening city. The radio blurted out the morning news, the announcers' sonorous voice filling the emptiness of my small single room.

    Lately the dreams have been growing more vivid, more real, I mused as I forced myself to get out of bed. I almost tripped over a pile of books in my rush to the sink to brush my teeth, only correcting myself by flailing my hands to keep balance like some demented cartoon character. Staring into the mirror I turned once more to the dreams, how stimulating would it be to live in a world like that?

    After my morning toilet and getting dressed, I had a quick search in the mini-fridge in my room. The investigation revealed a half-eaten chocolate bar and a loaf with mold merrily growing on it. I quickly scarfed the bar down while hurriedly placing the moldy loaf in my bag along with some books that I would need for the day.

    Moving to the door to leave, I noticed a new letter from the management company of the building. I already knew it was going to be asking me to pay this month’s rent which was two weeks late. My last job didn't pay as well as it had promised, so I would have to beg or borrow money from friends this month, or heaven forbid from my parents. Always I wondered how the management could charge so much for such a terrible room. There was a leak in the roof and the room was permanently damp in winter.

    Making sure to lock the door, I decided to take the long way to school through the park. I passed a jogger going the opposite direction who was determined on destroying their eardrums with the loud music blaring from her headphones. For a moment I could be sure that I heard the sound of an army marching to the beat of war...when the wild neigh of a warhorse was abruptly replaced by the harsh honking of a car in reality as a stray cat crossed the road.

    Snapping out of my episode, I crossed into the park and was greeted by familiar birdsong. Few people used the park at this time in the morning, and for a few precious moments it felt like this section of the park was truly mine. Lately I had the recurring notion that my life had been spiraling out of control. My recent break-up had done more damage to my confidence than I cared to admit, and it had started to affect my studies and my part-time job. I replayed in my mind the phone conversation with her again, my curt "Okay," before putting the phone down. Should I have begged instead? Bought a present with my non-existent money? Round and round the scenarios swirled.

    Torturing myself with these thoughts I continued walking through the park until I reached a small pond. Ducks swam lazily across the brown surface, quacking and occasionally diving down to feed, tufted bottoms in the air. I noticed a few indistinct shapes of fish lurking in the murky depths. Reaching into my bag for the moldy loaf, I began feeding the ducks and fish.

    A frenzy of activity whirled wherever I threw the bread, and I smiled as two birds squabbled over a larger piece. I was just about to throw another piece when a large shadow appeared beneath the birds, a shape growing so suddenly I was forced to step back in surprise. Something flew towards me and I instinctively closed my eyes. I could have sworn I felt water graze my cheek, but when I opened my eyes there was nothing but the peaceful scene of ducks and fish. Shaken, I quickly threw the rest of the loaf into the pond and took off.

    Feeling disorientated I hurried to my lecture, making it with a little time to spare. I had few friends and none of them had chosen this particular course, so I found my customary corner near the back and sat down to prepare. My mind began wandering again to the dreams and my encounter in the park. Overactive imagination, I thought to myself. Too rich a diet of video games and fantasy books.

    The history lecturer’s sonorous voice, as it had done so many times in the past, brought me back to reality. I loved the subject and had already looked over the section of the text we would be studying, but the lecturer on the podium’s voice was just so monotonous. Ever since primary school, I had been gifted with great teachers who made it one of the more enjoyable subjects taught, but it seemed that I had lucked out in higher education. It required memorization of facts and dates, but the main difficulty was giving these things life through good prose that answered the limited number of questions that could be posed in a concise manner.

    Here again, my mind was wandering. An errant thought drew me to picture fields of the most brilliant emerald grass, a viridian sea swaying softly in the wind...

    Grass...? I could hear the whispering susurration of each individual blade dancing to the cool spring breeze. The taste of the crisp clean air pervaded my imagination, a striking contrast to the acrid aftertaste of the city. I saw a small hill with what looked like a large acacia tree overlooking it, a vision that would make for the most perfect of landscape pictures. I yearned to go there, and one step later I was...back in the lecture hall as the lecturer continued listing the reasons for the fall of an empire.

    I listened with half an ear to the lecturer, occasionally casting a glance at a girl a few seats away on my right. Hair like burnt gold cascaded around her shoulders and framed a heart-shaped face with eyes of cornflower blue. A cute button nose, a little upturned, was perfectly positioned above blossom soft pink lips. I knew her name as I had heard her friends greet her once before, but I never had the courage to introduce myself. Sighing, I entered an almost zen-like autopilot for the rest of the lecture, my subconscious taking in all the relevant data.

    After the lecture finished I checked my timetable on my phone. The next one would be in the late afternoon, providing me a little time to carry out a few errands in town. With a smile, I was reminded that I had scheduled to play a game online with a friend later in the evening. It was so difficult recently to find time to do things together as we both lived in different time zones. But first I needed to go to the post office to pick up a package.

    Whistling an off-key tune I made my way to my next destination to find a long lunchtime queue had already formed. Patiently, I waited in line, part of the tune on endless repeat in my mind. Finally, my turn had arrived. The cashier was a bespectacled mousy woman of middle years, hair tied in a tight bun with small streaks of gray just beginning to appear. She pretended to carefully check over my details before handing me a small brown package and an invoice for import tax. I grudgingly counted out the necessary money. As an aside, I asked her the cost of sending a package back to its country of origin.

    With a sigh, clearly already irritated by my presence, she replied, "Well, you will have to choose between..."

    "Choose!" a voice thundered somewhere behind me. Eyes wild, I turned searching for the source of the voice.

    "...will be more expensive but faster..." I half-heard the post clerk continue.

    "Choose!" the voice thundered even louder, and this time there was a burning sensation in my heart and lungs. It felt as if chains were constricting them, squeezing ever tighter. I leaned against the counter for support as I tried to desperately breathe. "I did take my medicine this morning, didn’t I...?" I panicked before remembering my rush to leave early. Screaming a silent "No," as my eyes glazed over and I began to fall to my knees. Some of the people in the queue behind me rushed to help. The last thing I remember was the clerks' change of expression from annoyance, to worry, then to perturbing awe. As the pain became too great, I felt something important give way inside.

    This is what death is, I thought to myself, as I felt a sensation of falling. I was traveling through a place filled with a bright incandescent light before I was wrenched into a brand new reality. Suddenly next to me was...the girl from the lecture hall? Cornflower eyes once so warm and soft now seemed cold, and the lines of her mouth and lips had become hard and unyielding. A wave of disorientation passed over and I could hear a ringing in my head before her features fully shifted. In front of me now was the perfect ideal of classical female beauty, like the ancient Greek statues of yore. It felt so strange, yet somehow absolutely right. As if this was fated, like the final piece of a puzzle finally slotting into place.

    A perfect veiled symmetry of face and form. Piercing cobalt eyes both familiar yet utterly alien under sheer cloth were framed in a delicate, now oval face. Her loose gown, similar to a roman stola, billowed slightly as if floating in the water around a more luscious figure. Beneath a lovely high nose, sensuous lips stained crimson hinted at the beginning of a playful smile. With a rising sense of panic in my throat, I began to question what this experience truly was. The encounter was so distant from anything I could have ever imagined in any vapid daydream.

    "You have been chosen," the figure intoned with the lightness of an angel, yet carrying an ominous echo of ages long passed.

    Through some intangible power, I sank to my knees, overwhelmed by a mixture of absolute reverence and adoration. I could not bring myself to raise my head. I am not a religious man, but a small corner of my heart communicated that I was in the presence of absolute divinity.

    "I am justice and you shall be my herald. All that you do will be in my name. You will be the avatar of my will," the goddess proclaimed, for there could be no doubt that she was indeed a goddess.

    My heart missed a beat with every exclamation, and I could do nothing but bow under that divine gaze. Still, where bravery failed, panic and fear rallied.

    "Why?" I croaked under the weight of the holy countenance.

    "You have been judged and have not been found wanting. A life lived without sin and in service to your fellow man. A soul that is compatible with our needs. Forged anew to be a tool of the righteous. This will be our covenant," she stated in a voice filled with total control. I felt a burgeoning sense of excitement and forced adulation invading my inner being. But still, the fear remained in the leftover hollow places of my soul, crying against the wrongness with every beat of my heart.

    A soft warmth spread throughout, every fiber of my being was filled with purpose, and every word struck my soul with the force of a hammer.

    A look of puzzlement crossed her face for a fraction of a fraction of a second, as if she was analyzing all that stood before her. A hesitant smile tinged with sorrow grew across her face and once again I felt my soul rise with joy as tears tracked their way across my face.

    Lifting my face she spoke unto me, "But, let it not be said that there is no justice without mercy. Though it will cost me greatly, you will be given a day to face the trials to come. I am Avaria."

    The last utterance was said with such lament that I was filled with nothing but a deep shame; a feeling that a being such as myself was unworthy of such benevolence. Slowly I felt the warmth start to fade from my soul as my dream began to fade back to reality. The peace was followed by a sudden and jarring sensation of falling...

    The idyllic dream and sense of complete fulfillment were then utterly shattered as tendrils of shadow ripped through what felt like infinite universes…stabbing into my very soul, drawing me into a gaping void of utter darkness. Flailing my arms and legs around, I sought a way to escape whatever dire fate awaited me. The tendrils originated from a giant maw that grew ever closer as it drew me steadily in. I struggled more, howling animal noises as I devolved into an absolute panic. I sought the calm within the storm. A flash of understanding swept across my mind as the tendrils bored ever deeper into my being; I was Avaria’s chosen. 'The goddess would surely not abandon me...' I clutched to this fleeting hope before it was swiftly snuffed out as I was finally pulled with a sudden force within the maw.

    My being was stretched and compressed before finally being spat again into the void. Darkness was so absolute that it was more than just the absence of light. As primal fear finally overcame me I sensed a consuming presence. I could feel it breathing behind my neck, yet suffusing all around me; a paradox of being. Yet the embers of divine revelation still flickered, and somewhere I found it utter the word,

    "Who...?"

    A voice rumbled with laughter which betrayed an infinite slowness of eons and the volume of a meteor impact.

    "What are you...Are you a god?" I squeaked as fear once again ruled my soul.

    Laughter sounded again that evoked images of barren deserts and the death throes of dying stars.

    "I am not a God," it intoned, followed by a pause which held the time of the rise and fall of empires. "I am a higher Truth. The final Truth of all things." It spoke as I felt my very sense of self shredded, rewritten and analyzed again and again.

    "Avaria is a mere mortal and flawed concept. She has Chosen and Claimed, but in her mercy broke the Rules. She thought to prepare you from my brothers and I, to gift you enough sweet precious time to ready yourself for the great trials. What a foolish child, to think that we would not notice. No respite can be given in the rules of the great game. I claim you now, child of Earth," the voice exclaimed with all the dread of a dying world.

    Sibilant whispers skittered across my mind intruding upon my consciousness, shaping it so that I might better understand the being and prevent my mind from shattering against the cliffs of insanity I now stood upon.

    The whispers, echoes of the great being, spoke directly in my mind with voices like sharpened glass. Every word was a lesson in pain.

    "We will gift you nothing but our curse. We care nothing for your success or failure. We will simply try again as this moment will fold into itself once more. Know utterly the futility of your existence. However, we will curse you with that which so often shapes mortal existence. I give you pain, as a small reminder that here you exist for a blinking of an eye to the eternity of the cosmos. Take this and know a fleeting joy, mortal. The pain I give to you, you will give to others, as is the nature of your being. The pain will guide your growth in your new world, guide your understanding. An endless spiral of lost energy to chaos. As it once was, so shall it all be again," intoned the being.

    Then an agony filled me across long moments, flaying the fibers of my soul. All thoughts of the goddess burned away. A moment stretched across infinity. And all I could do was hear the hollow laughter of a thousand uncaring gods.


    The rest of the story can be found here at Royal Road
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2022
  2. WeebTrashMachine

    WeebTrashMachine Homete homete!

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    Shamelessly bumping my friend's post~
     
  3. WeebTrashMachine

    WeebTrashMachine Homete homete!

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    You know the NSFW section of the website is way busier, you should add one naked girl to the story and paste it over there as well xD
     
  4. WeebTrashMachine

    WeebTrashMachine Homete homete!

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    Do it! As long as there will eventually be NSFW stuff in the story, it's fine~
     
  5. Thedude1

    Thedude1 Getting sticky.

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    A good story? And first person? Love to see it hope this continues.
     
    Mesa and WeebTrashMachine like this.
  6. Blorbo Connoisseur

    Blorbo Connoisseur I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    I feel the tags would get more traction without the #s.
     
  7. Doc Sithicus

    Doc Sithicus Not too sore, are you?

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    You have my interest, I'd like to see where you'll go with this story.
     
    Mesa likes this.
  8. HerebyChoice

    HerebyChoice Getting out there.

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    This is some good stuff. I'm liking the drip feed of info on how magic and the like works.

    But seriously though, the creative writing section qq is dead. I would really suggest just adding something to get you on the other CW board.

    If you keep it as is than you should just post this on SB or one of the other sites if you're looking for viewer interaction.
     
  9. HerebyChoice

    HerebyChoice Getting out there.

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    https://forums.spacebattles.com/
    Its another site for Fan/ Original Fiction.
    Another option would be Royal Road.
     
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